Tempo work for football

Charlie, What do you feel is the optimal volume of tempo work for football players? As you can see I mentioned optimal, as all too often football players are used to running until they drop or throw up.

I play fullback and linebacker and will be playing college ball next year. I will do runs tempo runs of 60m, 100m or 200m at different times in training. What type of rest would be suggested for tempo runs, ive never really heard the protocol for this? thanks for your time guys!

I would definitely drop the wind-sprints. They are worse than useless. They actually work against the speed and explosiveness you are trying to build. When you run for speed, make it fast (>95%) and you can’t achieve this when tired. If you are running for conditioning, then don’t try for speed because you will mess up the movement patterns. That is why tempo must be <75% intensity. The mid-range intensities that you achieve (75% - 95%) when doing wind sprints are a no-man’s-land that you want to avoid whenever possible.


i keep my tempo to 1200 - 1600 per session max. i think for a back this is optimal. 75% speed, 30 sec break between each run, finish the same as you start as charlie mentioned and you’ll be fine. also, take xlr’s advice on the windsprints, as they tend to be counterproductive.


I have been attempting to adapt Charlie’s methods to my football training, so I have (at least) my own opinions on this.

Basically, tempo work is used to facilitate recovery. It also has some nice side effects like helping to keep your metabolism stoked, enhancing capiliarization of your muscles (which may help them to stay warmer and fire faster) and plus it gives you something to do on your non-speed days. The last item is not a joke, since many of us are addicted to training and if we don’t have formal low-intensity work to do on our “off” days, we will simply pound away until our CNS is fried and/or we are injured.

As far as tempo for a football player, I would say that it is somewhat dependent on position but overall, the idea is to work on quantity not quality (yes, I said that right!) and intensity should be very low (<75%)

For speed positions, I would probably follow a protocol very similar to that of a sprinter…100m runs, maybe some 200’s for a total of about 2000m per session. Do this barefoot on the field if possible.

For linemen, I might reduce the distances a bit (both the individual runs and overall) since large quantities of running at 300+ pounds has got to be stressful on the joints although I have to admit that I don’t have much expereince with training the big guys.

My personal plan (I’m a running back) calls for tempo 2 - 3x per week. I will run 100m 10 - 20 reps at under 75% pace. However, in reality, the weather has been lousy recently, so I haven’t been able to meet my plan. Also I have found that I tend to get minor nagging injuries when my quantity of tempo work starts to reach the 2000m range, so I have to be careful ramping it up. Given this, I tend to average a lower volume of tempo overall than Charlie prescribes for his sprinters.

However, the other nice thing that I have found is that once I started doing more tempo work, I found that I got less winded while playing and had no problems returning kicks, covering on special teams and playing every down on offense.


Sounds good. i’d prob keep the tempo vol somewhere around 1500m on average for backs and 750 to 1000 for the line. Whatever the run, you must be able to finish the way you started= so don’t start off too hard.

During the in-season how should a team incorporate tempo runs for conditioning purposes?For example ,traditionally teams will conclude practices with wind sprints of 40 yds or more until players are ready to drop.Would a team benefit from adding more tempo type training in their weekly practice design?Any thoughts on a good format for teams who play on friday’s and practice Monday - Thursday?

good thread guys! really helpful and answered some questions i had before i realized i had them.

for a fottball player, can tempo work be done on a tread mill? 10X100yrds 15-18secs? at 10mph? it still freezing cold here in the great white north…any ideas?


I don’t see why you couldn’t do tempo on a treadmill. It’s not about quality and the fact that you set the speed on the treadmill will help to keep you from going too fast.


thanks X! im going to start it this week, ill keep you posted.

have you heard anything from the combines in Indy? any inside scoops?

How do you address speed and agility training during the season? Do you take the approach that practice and games are as specific as it gets or should there be supplemental type speed and agility work?

it depends on a number of factors:

-type of football (ie tackle, touch, flag)
-level of play
-level of agility, quickness training in the offseason
-limiting factors (meaning, is quickness is a strength or weekness)
-practice/game/workout schedule

nightmare i’m in the same situation as yourself. i’ve been doing tempo on the treadmill since the beginning of the month. i hate it but it’s better than nothing.


In keeping with “vertical integration,” I try to do some speed and agility training year-round. The volume varies, but it is always there.

Certainly practice and especially games are the ultimate in specificity, but you can never be too fast. For my agility work, I tend to focus on more general characteristics such as decelleration and cuts while letting the games and practice take care of the actual movments for a given play.

I will also break down a specific techique that I would like to get better at and work on that in my agility sessions as well. For example a specific juke and cut that I want to use. The problem in a game is that you only get one chance to get it right, so I am more comfortable if I have some time rehearsing during my training.



I haven’t heard anything from Indy. I think that combine is reserved for college prospects and are by invitation only. Mine must have gotten lost in the mail :slight_smile: but I’ll let you know if I pick up any tidbits.

I’m doing the Scout Camp Pro Football Combines which will be held in various places throughout the states. Same idea, but open to the rest of us.